tv Declaration of Independence Collection CSPAN April 22, 2017 5:45pm-6:01pm EDT
touring cities across the country exploring american history. next, a visit to charlottesville virginia. you are watching american history tv. >> we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by the creator to certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. we are in the declaration gallery in the special collections library at the university of virginia. this gallery houses what we consider the best collection of documents and printings related to the american declaration of independence. it is the founding document of the united states of america,
written by the founder of the university of virginia, thomas jefferson. as you enter the gallery, you will see the key item in the collection, something that took mr. smalls quite a few years before he had the chance to acquire it. this is one of 26 known copies of the very first printing of the declaration of independence printed on the evening of july 4, 1776, in philadelphia by printer john dunlap. it really is the key printing of american history. first printing of america's founding document. we are not quite sure how many copies were printed. perhaps upwards of 400 sheets broadside. 26 survived, and interestingly enough, two of the 20's of two of the 26 copies are here.
-- you can trace its ownership back to the early 19th century owned by a man named tobias leer, who was george washington's last personal secretary. the purpose of the dunlap broadside, printed on the evening of july or it was to disseminate the news as quickly as possible throughout the 13 colonies. so copies were sent on horseback far and wide to government representatives and each colony, so the news could be read aloud and reprinted and spread by any means possible. once the news arrived in various cities in the now united states, the text of the declaration was reprinted it in various forms, and periodicals both here, and
eventually in great britain. for example, this broadside was printed in salem, massachusetts after the news had arrived there later in july 1776. and here, in a newspaper issued, an extraordinary issue, special stock press a dish in of the new hampshire gazette printed in exit her, new hampshire dated july 16, 1776, is a test of the declaration. so important that it could not wait for the next issue of the paper to be published. and of course, the news was sent to great britain and arrived there definitely august of 1776. -- directly august of 1776. the first running of the text in london was in this magazine, an
issue of the gentleman's magazine published in august 1776. of course, the issue had developed over more than a decade's time. in england, there were a great many political pamphlets published already. great many debates had been held. so many english support of the -- supported the american cause. the reaction could be best described as mixed. now, i would like to show you the most significant manuscript in his collection. perhaps the most significant one is this letter here by caesar rodney, a delegate from delaware. it is the only letter that i know of signed by a delegate who attended the convention and signed the declaration dated from philadelphia on july 4, 1776. and yes, it does discuss the declaration of independence. he played a key role in the decision for american independence. he went through a driving rainstorm 80 miles to philadelphia to cast his vote,
which was to approve independence. and then, he is writing on the evening of july 4, where he's described what he has done, and then goes on to say that the news will now be printed and disseminated in what he calls handbills, meaning broadside. here we have a facsimile of the portable writing desk that thomas jefferson used in philadelphia in july 1776 to write this draft of the declaration of independence. we do not have the original desk.
you can see that in the smithsonian institution in washington. but we do have a very interesting letter that tells us what jefferson did with the desk. and this letter is here. this letter that he wrote to his granddaughter. she is recently married and moved to boston. unfortunately, on the way there, some of their furniture was lost in a shipwreck. jefferson is writing his granddaughter to console her on the loss and saying, perhaps i can help replace your furniture by offering you the desk in which i wrote the declaration of independence? so he sent that to her. she kept it in the family for a while before donating it to the people of the united states.
this imposing volume is one of several in albert's collection that contains sets of documents signed by 56 men who signed the original declaration of independence. it has the goal -- it has long been the goal of collectors for complete sets of documents, with autographs of all 56 signers of the declaration. about 40 such sets exist, most of them in institutions. he has presented to us. here in this opening, we can see on the left hand side, and -- an original document from 1778 signed by john penn. a text transcript of the document. i think it is important to realize that after signing the declaration in 1776, the
delegates, and fact, many americans were in by no means safe. they still have to fight a war to ratify that decision and achieve their independence. not only were british troops present and fighting in the colonies, but many of the patriots' friends and neighbors became bitter enemies come in -- bitter enemies. delegates at the signing of the declaration were basically committing treason. some of their lives were really in danger. let me take you into the next room in the declaration gallery. i think it is important also to realize that in the late 18th century, the declaration did not have quite the significance that we placed on it today. it really wasn't until the early 19th century when a new generation was beginning to reflect on the achievements of the previous generation in
forming the united states that people became more interested in the declaration of independence, more reverent of the achievement of their ancestors, and more willing to commemorate that achievement. for example, it wasn't until 1818 that the first facsimile reproduction of the declaration of independence was created. this is an engraving done in 1818. it is not an exact facsimile. it contains the text of the declaration. also, facsimiles of those signatures. we not only have this 1818 engraving, but we have the subscription book that the publisher of the engraving. with him as he toured the united states, seeking subscriptions to his print. in planning his subscription
campaign, he did a very shrewd thing. he started by approaching who else then thomas jefferson. thomas jefferson was the first person to find this book to pledge to purchase a copy of the print. the next signature is james madison. the third signature, john quincy adams, the president at that time, and so on. as the publisher carried the subscription book around the united states, he could show people who had already subscribed to the print and encourage them to purchase another copy. almost immediately, another publisher got the idea to prepare a competing print of the declaration of independence.
so, this one was issued also in 1818. and here, he has added illustrations, also with more exact facsimile of the original document. one interesting feature of this print, as you can see, george washington is at the top. john hancock to the left. and then thomas jefferson. washington was the first president of the united states. jefferson was the third. where is president number two? john adams. he is not there. that was a mistake of mr. bent. here is the original letter written by john adams, complaining about the omission. when he received it, he was horrified to find that his portrait was missing from the print. therefore he returned it along with this letter, saying i am returning this. please do not send another copy.
in 1823, perhaps most important facsimile reproduction of the declaration of independence was issued. this is the so-called stone broadside. this print was actually taken directly from the original manuscript that is now on display at the national archives. if you have seen the original, it is quite faded. the reason it is faded was because of the treatment when it was prepared. it was dampened and pressed against the metal plate to transfer some of the ink from the original to the plate. unfortunately, it damaged the original. this print is a true, exact facsimile of the original.
his copy is a very important copy of this facsimile it is the copy that was given to general lafayette during his 1820 44 of -- 1824 tour of the united states. either reproductions of paintings of the scene of the signing of the declaration -- this should really be taken with a grain of salt if you read the accounts of the continental congress as they are debating the declaration. some of the members who eventually signed the documents were not, in fact, president in the room. -- present in the room.
in some respects, it is a b creation, but not an actual representation -- re-creation, but not an actual representation of the scene. if you see broadsides or print that appear to be the declaration of independence, it is a good idea to look a little more carefully because there are a number of examples that are using the theme of the declaration of independence in a different light. this is a declaration printed in charleston, south carolina late in 1860. it is really a declaration of secession. declaration of independence from the american union. here we have the text of the ordinance of secession and also the succession convention and the need to the delegates who signed it. we are extremely grateful to the -- grateful to albert small for donating his very important collection the university of virginia. it is a great importance to us because thomas jefferson was the founder of our university.
on his two son, he mentioned three great achievement he wanted to be known for. university of virginia was one of them. the declaration of independence was another. so, here we are able to present another side of jefferson here at the university that he founded. >> our cities tour staff recently traveled to charlottesville, virginia to learn about its rich history. learn more about charlottesville and other stops on our tour at c-span.org/cities tour. you are watching american history tv, all weekend every weekend on c-span3. announcer: